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Bioessays. 2004 Apr;26(4):405-12.

Theoretical morphology of developmental asymmetries.

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Gene Expression Laboratory, The Salk Institute, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037-1099, USA.


Morphospaces are theoretical tools to explore the morphological organization of living and fossil organisms. They have been used mostly by the paleontological community in an effort to get the most out of one of the only pieces of evidence that fossil material usually provide: the morphology of hard parts. The expectation with the establishment of theoretical morphospaces is that, by abstracting and modeling the fundamental parts of form, the multiple processes that generate the phenotypes of embryonic and adult structures will be better understood. In this essay, we suggest that ontogenetic trajectories can be used as the generative functions that build morphospaces, and propose approaches to build theoretical models for the establishment of left-right asymmetries during vertebrate heart embryogenesis.

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